By KAREN VELIE
The Arroyo Grande City Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday to make one more attempt to get funding for the now $32.1 million Brisco Road interchange project, with Mayor Caren Ray Russom dissenting.
Unable to afford the escalating price tag for the project, the council considered scraping the project and shifting its financial resources to other priorities such as street and sidewalk maintenance and repair. After learning there may be additional grant funding available through Caltrans, Council members Jimmy Paulding, Kristin Barneich, Lan George and Keith Storton voted to apply for another grant and pause plans to dump the project.
Barneich said she was prepared to kill the project, but agreed to give it one last chance.
“Brisco is not dead yet, it rises from the ashes,” Barneich said. “It is a problem, but how much of a problem today.”
The lone no vote, Ray Russom, said the project was too expensive and that Caltrans grant money is still taxpayer money.
“I can’t ethically go forward using taxpayer money to fund this,” Ray Russon said. “This is going to die.”
For over 17 years, Arroyo Grande officials have perused road realignment plans to alleviate traffic at busy Highway 101 interchanges. Eighteen proposed alternatives were considered through numerous studies, at a cost of approximately $3.6 million.
In March 2019, the council approved a project that consists of moving the Brisco Road on and off-ramps to West Branch Street and Rodeo Drive, close to the South County Regional Center, where a large roundabout is to be constructed. Plans also call for intersection improvements at Grace Lane and Rodeo Drive. At that time, total project costs were estimated at $22.7 million.
If the city council had voted to cancel the project, it would have lost $6.6 million in funds granted for the project through the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments.
If the city is unable to procure the entire $32.1 million currently needed to move forward with the project, the council members voiced plans to look at cheaper alternatives.